by M. Stephen Lukac
Dear Santa . . .
I was really looking forward to answering some questions on the ins and outs of the bookstore business, but either A) You’re all too shy to raise your hands, or B) There’s no “you” out there reading these.
For the sake of my ego, I’m going to go with A.
If my calendar and blood pressure are correct, we’ve started the Christmas season, so now’s the time for wish lists.
When I was a kid, these “gimme” lists were gleaned from the pages of Sears and JC Penney catalogs (interrupted by surreptitious forays into the lingerie sections). Today, kids simply surf the web, click a bunch of check boxes and email the results to Grandma and Grandpa, hoping they possess enough PC savvy to open the attachment and send it to their printer.
Lately, my wife’s asked me what I want under the Christmas tree this year, and I can’t think of a single thing to tell her. Sure, I’d love to have a 40” LCD HDTV or a new Blu-Ray player, but –thanks again to the internet- I have unrestricted access to the bank and credit card statements, so I know that isn’t going to happen this year. Before broadband, I had to sneak into my wife’s purse to get a look at the checkbook, and while what I’d find was never a surprise, I could delude myself into believing there was enough scratch in the vault to fund some extravagant purchases.
However, there are some things I wouldn’t mind having as this year slides into the next, things independent of checking account balances and my wife’s shopping preferences. These aren’t the kind of gifts you find placed under a tree or stuffed into a stocking, but they’re priceless, and I want them.
In the hopes that the act of verbalization (and if you don’t think I read these Vents aloud before publication, then you haven’t been paying attention) triggers cosmic ripples sufficient enough to jump start the universe, I’ll place my wish list here just in case Oprah and the author of The Secret aren’t the crackpots I believe them to be.
- I want the discipline to plant my ass in front of a keyboard and write at least once a day while resisting the lure of either email or the internet. I’m an adult, a father and the manager of a million-dollar retail establishment. With that kind of curriculum vitae, spending an hour on my bottom shouldn’t be that great a task. Besides, I like sitting. I like writing. When I’m standing, I think about sitting and when I’m not writing, I think about . . . wait for it . . . writing. Putting these two together shouldn’t require differential calculus.
- I want to write words that inform and inspire. Enlighten and entertain. Lofty goals for a small-press horror writer and part-time raconteur, but what goals are worthwhile if they’re not slightly out of reach. Hang out with a group of authors, or a group of booksellers and most of what you’ll hear will revolve around the dearth of quality fiction in today’s market. Mediocrity reigns supreme, and it’s quantity –not quality- that generates sales and success. The industry could use a little loft, and I’d like to help provide it.
- And while we’re on the subject, I want words such as “intelligent” and “intricate” to be used as praise, not criticism. Mass appeal is wonderful –even desirable- but not as spin for pandering to the lowest common denominator. Writers put a lot of thought into the words they choose; is it wrong to ask readers to make an equal effort when reading them? Will the world end if, while reading a novel, a reader needs to quit sipping their non-fat, caramel mocha frappawhatever long enough to check the definition of a word or research a historical reference?
- I want to see more independent publishers enter the field with a firm understanding of how bookselling works, not a “gee-whiz, I likes me some books” enthusiasm that passes for a business plan. Three hundred fans are great, three thousand are better, but reach thirty thousand and you’ve got yourself a ball game. Trouble is, to reach five figure audiences (and beyond), you have to cross the borders of cyberspace and get yourself some shelf space. To do that, you need to speak the lingo and understand the lingo you’re speaking. Also, you have to stop decorating books with art that looks like a seventh-grade emo kid’s English notebook cover. It also helps if you don’t have a seventh-grader edit it.
- I want Aaron Sorkin’s sophistication, Kevin Smith’s humor, Stephen King’s prolificacy, Mark Waid’s plotting skill, Andrew Vachss’ conviction and James Patterson’s money, and I’d like them now. By the way, if some of these names are unfamiliar, I’d suggest you get your Google on and check them out.
There’s my list for Saint Nick. Easy on the wallet, hard on the execution. I’m not even looking to bat a thousand; I’ll settle for a respectable .300.
I’d also settle for a 40” Sony, but I just had a look at the checkbook and now I’m sure it’s not going to happen this year.
But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .
M Stephen Lukac has been reading since he was three, writing since he was seven and selling other people’s books since he was twenty-eight. At forty, he realized it might be time to get serious.
He loves stories set in coherent worlds, where the rules and situations –no matter how fantastic they may be- remain consistent across the author’s body of work. Experiencing the creation of a fictional universe –whether overt or subtle- is akin to peeking over God’s shoulder. Inhabiting those creations, regardless of the medium, is his second favorite thing.
His favorite thing is definitely not talking about himself in the third person.
But Then Again, You’ll Have This . . .
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